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Travel Q&A: How to save money on your luggage when flying abroad

Conor Pope: Be sure to pack as light as you can and check your baggage allowance when booking your flight

Saving money on luggage starts before you put a flip-flop into your suitcase. The golden rule is to pack less than you think you’ll need. The old cliche about laying everything you want to pack on to the bed and bringing half works. So, too, does rolling rather than folding clothes. Start with jeans and dresses and then T-shirts and tops. Squeeze underwear into the gaps and socks – if you can be bothered with them – get packed into shoes.

Liquids are heavy so carry as few of them as possible and decant into smaller plastic bottles or contact lens cases. They make for excellent liquid and cream holders and while small, they carry a surprising amount. If you don’t have contact lens cases, your local optician will sell you some for buttons (or give them to you for free).

Buy bulkier, heavier items – towels, shower gels, sun creams – overseas. If travelling to southern Europe, they’ll be cheaper than home too, saving you space and money.

Never go over your allowance as even a kilo more can cost you dearly. Excess baggage charges vary but Ryanair, for example, charges €9-€11 for each kilo over you go, so check your cases before you go. There are scales you can buy, but just stand on a regular scales with and without the case and do the maths.


If you’re a couple of kilos over, move the heaviest – non liquid – items into your carry-on bags. If you have a neck pillow, consider abandoning its comforts and stuffing it with some of the contents of your suitcase as well. Unless you overstuff it, you should get it past eagle-eyed flight attendants.

Remember, at least with Ryanair, it is not all about the individual suitcases. Passengers can pool or share baggage allowances with other passengers on the same reservation if checking in together. So if a reservation has two checked bags of 20kg, one of the bags could weigh 15kg and the other 25kg.

Know the other rules before you leave home. If you want to bring a 10kg bag on a short-haul Aer Lingus flight, you must book a “carry-on bag with priority boarding” at a cost of €5.99. But 10kg bags can be checked in for free. If you show up at the boarding gate with your bag without paying in advance, it will cost you €35. Priority boarding with Ryanair gets you your 10kg on board bag for “free”, while checking it in can cost €12-€25 per flight depending on the time and distance travelled. A 20kg bag with the same airline costs €17.99-€50.

Do some sums. A family of four travelling to Portugal paying for 10kg of carry-on luggage each (plus the handbags) and priority boarding and reserved seating pay an additional €300 for return flights. The same family who pay for the Family Plus deal pay €370.88, or 23 per cent, more but get an additional 20kg or 50 per cent extra luggage. They get reserved seating but not priority boarding – which is of marginal use anyway.